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Honored at the Maryland Building Industry Association member awards ceremony

McLean, Virginia — Miller & Smith, a local homebuilder and real estate development
company, is proud to receive top honors as the 2014 Large Volume Builder of the Year
and the Environmental Award for Land Development at the Maryland Building Industry
Association’s member awards ceremony.

“It’s an absolute honor to be recognized by MBIA,” said Robert Spalding, Vice President-
Land, Miller and Smith, “It signifies that we’re doing the right thing in our work with our
partners and with the critical behind-the-scenes work to keep things running smoothly.”

In addition to being named 2014 Large Volume Builder of the Year, Miller and Smith
received a Land Development award for the construction of the 24-acre Gallery Park
neighborhood in Clarksburg, MD, which included the widening of Shawnee Lane,
providing enhanced storm water management in the Clarksburg Special Protection Area
and protecting forested areas. Environmental benefits of Gallery Park and the Lane
widening included, 14.85 acres of open space, which exceeds the zone’s 50 percent
requirement, 6.26 acres of forest retention, a variety of storm water management
features designed to enhance landscaping that also treat 125 percent of normal
requirements, and a newly constructed bike path and sidewalk.

The Maryland National-Capital Building Industry Association held this prestigious awards
program for 20 years before their merger with the Home Builders Association of
Maryland to form the Maryland Building Industry Association. The nominees are former
members of both MNCBIA and of HBAM. Entries came from all around Maryland; Anne
Arundel, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.

About Miller & Smith:
Founded in 1964, Miller & Smith is celebrating 50 years as one of the Washington area’s
top privately-owned building and development firms. Active in both residential and
commercial real estate, the company has earned a reputation for creating innovative and
imaginative homes and communities. In 2013, Miller & Smith sold 170 single family
homes, 103 townhomes and 56 condos. Miller & Smith has built nearly 5,600 single
family homes and more than 8,900 townhomes and 2,180 condominiums, and has
developed over 13,000 home sites in 95 communities throughout Maryland, Virginia and
Delaware and is headquartered in McLean, Virginia. For more information about Miller &
Smith, visit or call (703) 821-2500.



Chantilly, Virginia — Miller & Smith, a homebuilder and real estate development company, is proud to announce the completion of a $95,000 project for Homestretch in Falls Church, Virginia. The condominium renovation provides a new home for a single mother and her children. The project was produced in partnership with HomeAid Northern Virginia, which builds and renovates facilities for the homeless, and led by Miller & Smith along with 19 trade partners.

“The Homestretch renovation was an opportunity to give a family a new beginning,” said Scott Alford, VP of production, Miller & Smith. “We completely transformed the condominium from top to bottom as well as professionally decorated and furnished it. It became so much more than just paint and cabinets — it became a home. We can participate and help because of the generosity of our subcontractors that always go above and beyond to donate their time and materials.”

The renovation included new: floors, windows and doors; kitchen and appliances; bathroom; HVAC system, electrical fixtures, plumbing fixtures and window coverings; interior doors; and furnishings and décor specifically for the age and gender of the children who now live there. View before and after pictures.

“Homestretch, a program for homeless families located in Falls Church, was extremely fortunate to have one of our most distressed units renovated by HomeAid and Miller & Smith,” said Christopher Fay, executive director, Homestretch. “But to call it a renovation does not adequately describe the incredible makeover of the unit; it was transformational, and went from being our worst unit to our best. The new family coming in, a single mother (and victim of severe domestic violence), when seeing the home, fell to her knees in tears of joy and prayers of thanksgiving. Words can barely express our gratitude.”

About Miller & Smith:

Founded in 1964, Miller & Smith is celebrating 50 years as one of the Washington area’s top privately-owned building and development firms. Active in both residential and commercial real estate, the company has earned a reputation for creating innovative and imaginative homes and communities. In 2013, Miller & Smith sold 170 single family homes, 103 townhomes and 56 condos. Miller & Smith has built nearly 5,600 single family homes and more than 8,900 townhomes and 2,180 condominiums, and has developed over 13,000 home sites in 95 communities throughout Maryland, Virginia and Delaware and is headquartered in McLean, Virginia. For more information about Miller & Smith, visit or call (703) 821-2500.

About HomeAid Northern Virginia:

HomeAid Northern Virginia, a chapter of HomeAid America, leverages the resources of the homebuilding community and its corporate partners to undertake new construction and major renovations to properties that help homeless people gain stability and get back on the road to self-sufficiency. HomeAid Northern Virginia was started in 2001 by the members of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association (NVBIA), and since then has completed 91 projects valued at more than $12 million, serving more than 60,000 homeless individuals. HomeAid also manages Women Giving Back, a program which provides free clothing to women and children in crisis.


Home Building: Enduring Appeal

September 12, 2014

Long before email, cloud drives, and smartphones, two young Harvard Business School grads sat down at their typewriters and, separated by hundreds of miles, began to craft a plan to transform their graduate school project on the home building industry into reality. With the Washington, D.C., market as their foundation, they researched the existing competition. They scouted land. They persuaded family members to invest. They developed financial projections for “realistic,” “optimistic,” and “pessimistic” scenarios.

And yes, they got a little nervous. “I must admit I left Washington with a great deal of anxiety about the future,” David H. Miller wrote to his Harvard classmate and partner Gordon V. Smith in a letter dated Feb. 19, 1961. “Certainly, a step such as our proposed business cannot be taken lightly.”

But their fears did not stop them from moving forward. “The more I go into this, the fewer doubts I have,” declared an enthusiastic Gordon in a letter dated Aug. 29, 1961, to Miller. “I can hardly wait to get started.”

By 1964, they were ready—and so was their straightforwardly named company, Miller and Smith Construction Corp., backed with $32,000 in cash to build and sell a projected nine homes in the Maryland suburbs. Their office was a makeshift door-turned-desk located in Gordon’s basement, halfway between the furnace and the water heater. They turned to their wives, Helen Smith and Pat Miller, for secretarial services; Helen also decorated the model homes.

Fifty years and nearly 17,000 homes later, Miller and Smith has clearly come a long way from its typewritten beginnings. Now headquartered in McLean, Va., the private builder survived the sky-high interest rates of the 1970s, the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s, the real estate depression of the 1990s, the housing boom and bust of the 2000s, and the arrival of countless national builders with deeper pockets and lower lending costs. But the firm is more than just a survivor. Miller and Smith has thrived by developing a reputation for creative home designs, land-planning expertise, and a collaborative culture in the Washington metropolitan area, where last year it closed 369 homes and generated $238 million in revenue.

“You should never deviate from what you do best,” says company founder Gordon V. Smith, now 81, his eyes twinkling.

Different By Design

Even as a young home building company, Miller and Smith recognized the importance of land and design. “As I mentioned to you while you were here, I feel the key to building success is good land acquisition and development,” Smith wrote to Miller in the early 1960s. In a separate letter, dated March 8, 1964, Smith practically shuddered on paper as he updated Miller on a parcel they might want to buy and homes he’d seen in the market. “This land backs up to [a park], and there are some small builders active there who are building some horrible stuff that is somehow being sold,” he wrote.
They got one of their first opportunities to differentiate themselves in Fairfax County, Va., where they developed Wessynton in 1967. Created on a 65-acre parcel carved from historic Mount Vernon, the community featured open, contemporary-style homes. “That’s what George Washington would have done,” says Smith, who sealed the land deal with the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association over tea served from the founding father’s china, and who named the mid-century modern development after Washington’s English ancestors. “Mount Vernon was not a Colonial house. He wanted something contemporary.”

Miller and Smith set themselves apart in other ways during those early days as the country wrestled with civil rights and racial equality in the 1960s. While other builders refused to sell homes to black buyers, Miller and Smith welcomed blacks and whites alike, selling its fifth house to a person of color. “It was the right thing to do,” says Gordon, who believes the company’s stand also attracted progressive white buyers who liked the idea of living in a more integrated neighborhood.

As the builder grew, so did its commitment to distinctive designs, frequently inspired by architectural trend-spotting trips around the country. “I didn’t want to be like a national builder that builds a product that appeals to 40 percent of the market,” explains Spencer Stouffer, who joined Miller and Smith in 1975 to handle sales and marketing and later became a partner in the business. “I’m happy to design a product that appeals to only 10 percent of the market because we’ll get a premium price for it.”

Company leaders believe design is one of the factors that has allowed the privately owned Miller and Smith to remain competitive in a market filled with national home builders. “We think they will always have that advantage [of size] on us, so we had to pick something that they can’t emulate,” says Douglas I. Smith, Gordon’s son and company president since 2002.

The approach has brought the company plenty of success—and a few nervous moments. Stouffer still remembers the nail-biting that happened when Miller and Smith’s proposal for Chicago-style brownstone townhomes in Reston, Va., was enthusiastically accepted by the developer. “We were applying to build 50 homes, and they gave us 150,” Stouffer recalls. “It was very scary product—it was urban, which we’d never built before, and it had flat roofs and decks. When we got the pricing on what it would cost to build, I thought, ‘Oh my God, we can’t do it at a price that will give us any profit.’”

He was wrong. “The product took off,” Stouffer says. “It was a home run.”

Collaborative Culture

Behind Miller and Smith’s innovative designs, though, stands some very old-fashioned values: teamwork, humility, and loyalty. “One reason we succeed is that [Miller and Smith] is not one person,” Doug says. “We are a collaborative ownership group, and it trickles down. People here realize that they are empowered to make decisions, and the most successful people here are those who check their egos at the door.”

It’s been that way at Miller and Smith since the late 1970s, when the builder went through its first leadership transition. After co-founder David Miller left the business for health reasons, Gordon turned to a few trusted colleagues to join him as partners. They included Stouffer, who handled sales and marketing; Richard North, who became the company’s chief financial officer; and construction superintendent Alvin Hall, who had been the company’s very first hire. “That’s when we became a team,” says Hall, who now serves as the company’s CEO.

They admit they are a bit of a motley crew. “If it wasn’t for the business, we wouldn’t be friends because we are that different,” North says. “But we’d do anything for each other.”

The new structure gave Miller and Smith the confidence to tackle increasingly ambitious ventures in the 1980s and beyond. In Fairfax County, Va., the builder took a former gravel pit through one of the largest rezonings in county history, transforming the property into Kingstowne, a 1,300-acre development with office, retail, and 5,800 homes. It purchased a $200 million savings-and-loan bank as a hedge against interest-rate risk and took advantage of the chance in 1988 to invest in restricted Freddie Mac stock, which turned out to be a financial boon. “That helped keep us alive during the 1989-to-1993 recession, which I thought was much worse than 2007 to 2010,” North says.

That era brought other challenges, too, as the partners mulled over the question of succession planning. “Eighty-five percent of family businesses don’t survive past the second generation,” says Gordon, who wasn’t interested in having Miller and Smith acquired by a larger builder. “What do you gain by selling? You’re getting out of the business,” he says. “We like the business.”

Gordon decided to beat the odds instead. “I took it on as a case study,” he says. “How do you pass the business along to the next generation?”

The answer, at least in Miller and Smith, is by proving your value, regardless of your name. “You’ve got to earn it. It’s not a given,” says Doug, who still remembers a long-ago watershed conversation with his father on the subject. Over lunch, Doug, then 18 and a veteran seasonal employee at Miller and Smith, told Gordon that he’d like to join the business. His father’s reply? “‘That’s great, but I don’t want to see you until you are 30 years old,’” recalls Doug, who graduated from college, got an MBA from Harvard, and worked for consumer goods company Procter and Gamble and commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle before returning to Miller and Smith in 1992 in the warranty department.

Ten years later, Doug became president of Miller and Smith, just in time for the end of the boom and the start of the bust. “It was a baptism by fire,” says Doug, now 51.

But just like his father, Doug’s not going it alone. As the four partners have gradually scaled back their involvement as they approach retirement, they have also been preparing a new generation of partners—Charles Stuart Jr., Jake Oates, Alvin Hall’s son Thomas Hall, and of course Doug—to take their places at the collaborative, design-oriented builder.

As for Doug, he says he can’t wait to see what the next 50 years will bring for Miller and Smith. “Whatever problem is thrown at us, we can figure it out,” he says. –PB

Read the digital version here.


Jan Mercker Leesburg Today

Conceived a decade ago as a new downtown for Loudoun County, One Loudoun is beginning to live up to that promise.

For commuters who pass by on Rt. 7, the project appears as just one more group of buildings rising out of the most recent construction boom. Those who take the exit are finding a hip new place to shop, eat or just hang out. And while many of the One Loudoun’s amenities are still in the works, a sense of its urban vibe finally is emerging.

One Loudoun has a decidedly urban feel by design. With brownstone-style townhouses on small lots as well as single-family homes and downtown-style common spaces, including its fountain plaza surrounded by restaurants and the aptly named Central Park, a 100-acre green space located between commercial and residential areas.

“Our vision has always been to create a more urban, walkable environment where you can live work and play all in the same place,” said Bill May, the development’s managing director. “The kind of environment that up until now has not existed in Loudoun County…We thought there was enough critical mass in the area to support and sustain a real downtown area.”

That urban feel was an important selling point for Stephanie Knackstedt and her family. Knackstedt moved to Ashburn Farm from Old Town Alexandria with her husband Chris and daughter Madison, now 8, at the beginning of this decade because of Loudoun’s highly rated school system. But as One Loudoun’s residential component came online, Knackstedt saw it as a way to have the best of both worlds.

“The whole idea of being able to park your car on the weekends, being able to walk to some of the fun events or the restaurants is really nice,” she said. “It’s pretty hectic during the week and for us it was the thought of going home and not having to get in your car again and being able to relax and walk to the grocery store and walk to the restaurants and walk to the park and meet your neighbors.”

Both Knackstedt and her husband commute to work, and One Loudoun’s location at the nexus of Rt. 7 and Loudoun County Parkway was a big part of the neighborhood’s appeal, as was its more urban feel. “It reminds us of Old Town and we like that,” Knackstedt said.

Residents have been flocking to monthly Saturday evening open-air concerts at the development’s central fountain plaza this summer and children’s concerts featuring the popular kids’ band Rocknoceros. The developer showed World Cup soccer matches on permanent large screens on the plaza, which also offers free Wi-Fi. The centrally located Alamo Drafthouse has been up and running for over a year and draws residents from across the region with its mix of films, including regular repertory classics, food and beverages.

This spring, the developer celebrated the completion of a rebuilt barn, moved from a nearby property, as the anchor of its amphitheater entertainment area just beyond the retail plaza. The barn’s inaugural event was this year’s Loudoun YouthFest concert featuring top teen bands from around the country. May said his staff is working on fall programming for the barn and the plaza, as well as the development’s clubhouse, which is still under construction and slated for completion in November. This fall, the clubhouse site will be the new home of the Ashburn Farmers Market, a member of the Loudoun Valley Homegrown Markets Cooperative currently located at a shopping center off Ashburn Village Boulevard. The market will move to the clubhouse site Sept. 6 and will be renamed the One Loudoun Farmers Market.

As the development’s planned restaurants come online, they’re drawing a mix of 20-somethings, young families and empty nesters. For Alicia Keen, 23, who lives in Leesburg and owns a Pilates studio in Ashburn, Bar Louie is a favorite hangout.

“I like the atmosphere—it’s a cool place and the food is delicious,” Keen said. One Loudoun’s central location is appealing to her group of friends scattered across Loudoun and Fairfax counties, and they regularly meet up for its $5 burger night on Tuesdays.

“Half my friends live in Leesburg and half live in Herndon,” Keen said. “It’s a good meeting spot.”

And, the current restaurant offerings are just the beginning. Loudoun’s restaurant culture is getting ready for a shift with the advent of some of the county’s first celebrity chef-driven restaurants at One Loudoun. Bryan Voltaggio will open his second Family Meal restaurant near the already-open Fresh Market grocery store later this year. And Robert Wiedmaier, known for DC hotspots like Marcel’s and Brasserie Beck, will open his first Italian-style restaurant at One Loudoun next year.

Voltaggio’s company has several different restaurant concepts, from fine dining to more casual. The chef said he and his staff work to make sure the concept fits the community and One Loudoun fits Family Meal’s high-end comfort food model.

“It’s about taking really approachable family fare and using great ingredients and focusing on technique,” he said. “One Loudoun is a fast growing community and seems to be appealing to families. The other great thing about that development is we like mixed-use tenants like retail and office space.”

One Loudoun also will feature upscale regional chains popular in more urban settings like Arlington, Bethesda and Reston, including Uncle Julio’s Mexican, Matchbox and a branch of the Arlington farm-to-table favorite Copperwood Tavern. According to May, leases have been signed with a number of ethnic eateries and the Redskins Grille, operated by the G3 restaurant group through a licensing agreement with NFL and slated to open next spring.

The blossoming downtown vibe has been a long time in the making. Developer Miller and Smith began planning One Loudoun 10 years ago and took title to the land in 2007. The company conveyed a school site to the county for the construction of Steuart W. Weller Elementary, which opened in the fall of 2008. But by the end of 2008, the economy had crashed and residential building at the development was put on hold until late 2010. So far, the developer has sold 379 houses, of which 295 have been completed and conveyed to owners. The developer is currently in discussions about building apartments at One Loudoun.

While things are moving along at One Loudoun, the road has not been without a few bumps. Ground was broken at One Loudoun more than a year ago for the construction of a stadium for the Loudoun Hounds minor league baseball team, but construction of Edelman Financial Field has been on hold as the investment group behind the franchise works to put together a financing package, leaving an empty space at the community’s gateway on Rt. 7.

Also still in the planning stages are a hotel deal and construction of the World Trade Center Dulles Airport, which would be a member of the international World Trade Centers Association and would help foreign companies launch projects in the United States.

May said the developer had originally envisioned the community as appealing to younger first-time homebuyers, but he’s been surprised by its popularity with empty nesters looking to downsize, drawn in part by the lawn care services included in the development’s HOA fees.

“It’s a bigger mix than we originally thought perhaps that we would get,” May said, adding that the generational diversity is an asset. “An integral part of being a real place is having that multigenerational community. I think that’s critically important.”

One Loudoun’s new “downtown” also is drawing residents from nearby older adult communities Potomac Green and Ashby Ponds for shopping and dining.

“From a socialization point they’re very much a part of One Loudoun,” May said.

Ed Good and his wife Margaret recently moved to the neighboring Potomac Green 55-plus community from Waterford, and the retail, restaurant and cultural offerings at One Loudoun were a big part of the appeal. Breakfast and lunch at Fresh Market and Zoës Kitchen have made the unpacking process easier.

“We’ve been going every day for lunch and breakfast,” Good said. “We certainly like having Fresh Market close by. We like having the Alamo close by. We like the outdoor concerts with our grandchildren. It’s going to be very interesting to see what else goes in there.”